After only one month outdoors, the Merrick House Learning Garden plants have grown tremendously.
By Stacia Naoum
After months of planning and preparation, the Merrick House Learning Garden kicked off its inaugural season in 2015. Seeds were planted indoors in March, and by May they were ready to transplant into their new home in five raised beds installed in the backyard at 1050 Starkweather Avenue.
The backyard at Merrick House before the garden was planned and planted. In order to best utilize this space, Merrick House decided to turn it into an outdoor classroom.
The garden was conceptualized not only to utilize the large grassy area in the back of the Merrick House facility, but also to create learning opportunities for program participants of the non-‐profit, as well as a way to get the larger community involved at Merrick House.
“The garden provides a place where we could intertwine different Merrick House programs as well as promote our healthy living initiative,” said Rocky Melendez, Assistant Director at Merrick House. “Creating the space where healthy eating and education can connect was really a priority for us.”
Last summer the Summer Youth Employment kids helped clear the space to prepare for the garden. Overgrown plants and weeds, as well as trees were removed to allow more sunlight in the area, as well as a more open space for the eventual garden.
Each year Merrick House is a host site for Summer Youth Employment through Youth Opportunities Unlimited, and youth, led by the Youth Leadership Council, have been helping to plan, build, plant and learn from the garden. The early childhood education teachers will also be receiving professional development on teaching in the garden from the Cleveland Botanical Garden to enhance learning for children in this program. STEM lessons were already implemented when the kids planted the seeds indoors and watched them grow before planting them in the raised beds outside.
In order to turn the idea of the Learning Garden into a reality, Merrick House
received in-‐kind support from the OSU Extension Summer Sprout program in the form of seeds and technical support, as well as funding from the Thomas White Foundation, Tremont Trek, and other private donors.
The youth program participants helped plant the sprouts into the raised beds this May. During this hands-‐on lesson, they were taught information on properly planting a garden and how to ensure growth.
The Cleveland Bridge Builders also chose Merrick House as a Leadership Action Project site, where a team of professionals from throughout Cleveland helped create a plan to sustain the garden into the future. Future plans include an on-‐site greenhouse and the creation of an entrepreneurship program for youth to sell vegetables and flowers grown in the garden.
“From financial donations, to technical assistance, as well as well as time invested in planning the future and planting the space, we are very grateful for the amount of support we have gotten for the Merrick House Learning Garden,” said Stacia Naoum, Executive Director at Merrick House. “We look forward to growing this project each year so that it benefits all of our program areas, as well as the community at-‐large.”
Short-‐term plans for the garden include providing science lessons to program participants and harvesting the garden to be used in feeding the early childhood education children. The Youth Leadership Council will also be painting a mural in the space in order to beautify the area and make it their own. Also, as part of the Tremont Moves…All Year challenge, Merrick House and community partners will provide healthy cooking demonstrations in the space on Tuesday evenings through August 18th, which is open to the public. To learn more about the Learning Garden, Tremont Moves and other opportunities at Merrick House, please visit their website at www.merrickhouse.org, or find them on Facebook (MerrickHouseTremont) and Twitter (@MerrickHouse).